NHS 'Needs To Listen To Patients More'

Patients Want To See More Of A Listening And Learning Culture Within The NHS

05.11.2014

The NHS needs to improve the level at which it listens to patients, whether they are giving praise, constructive feedback or complaining, in order to provide a greater standard of care.

This is the opinion of James Munro, who has written an article for the Guardian analysing various reports that have been carried out in recent years, focusing on the issue of how the UK's free health service considers the opinions of those who use it.

Mr Munro explained that he does not simply want the NHS to improve this, but to build on the way it responds to patients' comments and queries.

He wrote: "Of course, a good listener will do more than simply nod. They will acknowledge concerns, take action where necessary and report back on what was done."

Mr Munro added that some leading figures within the health service believe collecting an increased amount of data relating to patients would show that the NHS is taking note of their concerns, yet he wrote: "I would be willing to bet that when they said 'please listen', the public didn't mean 'please give us another survey to complete'."

He went on to highlight that of all of the stories posted by people who have been cared for under the NHS on the Patient Opinion online forum, one-third do not receive any response.

Despite this, Mr Munro pointed out that NHS board meetings often begin with a patient story, "almost like saying grace", but many still do not feel like they are being listened to.

Furthermore, Mr Munro said the customer satisfaction survey currently used by the health service to collect patients' and their next of kin's comments, the NHS Friends and Family Test, "seems to be rapidly losing credibility as a metric of care quality" and that the public wants to see an improved culture of listening and learning introduced across the UK's medical facilities.

These views were brought to light following the inquiry into the Mid-Staffordshire hospitals scandal in particular, but Mr Munro suggests patients have not been happy with the NHS's standard of listening for some time.

Expert Opinion
Patient care should always be a top priority for the NHS, which means ensuring any feedback from patients – positive or negative – is taken on board and, where necessary, action is taken to resolve issues. Providing adequate responses to patient feedback is vital, as it reassures patients that steps are being taken to improve care standards and that any failings are identified and corrected as soon as possible.

“All too often we have seen the impact a failure to act on feedback or complaints can have on the health of patients, with many suffering serious injuries or not receiving appropriate treatment and care as a result. It is critical that a thorough investigation into the way the NHS communicates with patients is conducted and any failings are identified and dealt with.”
Julianne Moore, Partner